The New England Patriots: 5 ways they are like the perfect admission office

OK, I can admit it. I am a Baltimore Ravens fan, and have been since the team came to Baltimore in 1996. I am, however, also able to spot things in other teams and organizations that I find to be really effective, and give them proper due when they are warranted.

As I was watching the big game last night, an epiphany hit me like the zing from an Old Bay Chicken Wing (trust me, you HAVE to try them). The New England Patriots are the perfect embodiment of what a great admission office is.

I know that sounds crazy (and it’s really painful to write), but I bet when you look at how these pieces come together, there is a REALLY compelling connection to the cogs in the gears.

  1. The Organization has a clear vision of the type of individuals who succeed.
    Think about your school. You have a great idea of the kinds of students who do well with you, and you know as an admission professional when an application comes across your desk if you would take them (all things being equal) pretty quickly. There is a mentality in New England, and they know “Patriots” when they see them, and actively recruit the kinds of players who fit the mold and the culture.  At your school, you know the exact types of kids you are trying to recruit, and are not shy about putting out there who would be successful on your campus.
  2. Leadership relies on data for decisions.
    The coaches watch hours and hours of film to know what to do for building a game plan and they do it in such a way that is mapped to the weaknesses of their opponents AND the strengths of their team.  There is no game plan or strategy put in place that hasn’t been truly vetted and built over multiple scenario tests. Your admission office shouldn’t take out an ad in a newspaper or on the radio “on a hunch” or because it “seems right”. Decisions have to come from data to be effective.
  3. Every opportunity requires a tailored approach.
    You never see two identical gameplans from the Patriots. They treat each opponent with a sophistication that is tailored specifically to who they are playing. In fact, there are times when you literally can’t distinguish the team from week to week, because they are using very different approaches in consecutive games. For your admission office, do you have a “one size fits all approach” or do you tailor your approach and strategy to each prospective family you face. Your success rates for yield will increase dramatically with the time spent tailoring the approach to each family. (That fact comes from a survey I did with SchoolAdmin and AISAP)
  4. Put your players in a position to succeed.
    You never see the Patriots asking a player who is not gifted with blocking to do nothing but block. They find the best uses for their players and give them every opportunity to be successful. In your office, you may have team members who are great with data, but not as good with the process, or you may be the ONLY member of the team, and are great with families and terrible with managing the numbers. Putting the right players on the right seat “on the bus” of your office is more important that just “hiring more help”. You need to have the right personnel operating from a position of strength, while pushing them to work on weakness whenever possible.
  5. Vision drives success.
    Without an organizational mantra, there is little chance for success. You’ll never hear a member of the Patriots talk about individual successes or looking ahead to another opponent. The entire team is focused on doing the best job you can, today. That leadership comes from the top, and is modeled brilliantly by the head coach (and the owner). If your head of school can distill the vision of quality through to your office’s work, there is no limit to the successes your school can attain through enrollment management.

This is probably a post for another day, but I found the thought poignant enough to capture here: Admission offices are the chief caretakers of the school’s brand, yet seldom have any control in how the brand is executed on a day in and day out basis on campus.  The Patriots all care for and advance the organization’s brand AND are able to control the messaging and set daily examples of how to live in the brand.

Thankfully, football season, as has the main admission season, has come to a close. As teams and admission offices gear up to start the next campaign, think about how your office can learn a few lessons from the Patriots and how they conduct their business every day.

It is cliche’ to connect sports and business, but in this case, our work is deeply tied to mission and mantra, and that’s something that the Patriots have cornered the market on.

What do you think? Are there any other lessons to be learned in connection to your office?

Are you on top of your game?

I have had the privilege over the past few years of working with some schools that were full. Not full in the way that I used to think of it. Nothing like that actually. In my old paradigm, full meant “on the number, and everyone’s happy”. That perspective was shattered on a school visit in the UK.

I met a school that had admission issues, and they were looking for a solution. Their challenge, however, is one that almost every school I have ever met would kill for. Literally.

This school had a 13 year waiting list.

Let that sink in for a moment.

13 years. They were projected to be completely full for 13 years, with full pay students. Done. Dusted. Wrapped up in a bow.

And yet, this school was concerned with competition, staying ahead of the market and doing things differently, so that they could continue their dominance. That was a refreshing and eye-opening conversation. We didn’t talk about the problems that are inherent in that kind of logjam of paperwork (yes, they still used paper), or the possibility of families falling through the cracks with a 13 year process.

We talked about Staying On Top Of The Game. It was fantastic.

As you think about your state of admissions, where are you? Are you on top of your game? Are you getting the most out of your marketing efforts and attracting the right families to your events? As this school proved, Same Old-Same Old just doesn’t work, especially in this hyper-competitive market.

There is another school in the UK that is bursting at the seams, and they have figured things out. I want you to watch this video, and then think about their reason for doing it:

So…this school took a look at their data. They were full and wanted to stay there. They saw that grandparents were helping to pay tuition of their students. They also wanted to connect with traditional past-times…hence the toys and games that resonate with an older demographic. Once this video aired, they reported one more fascinating statistic: the number one demographic at their open houses were now pregnant women.  Hornsby House kept demand up, without showing anything relating to curriculum, caring faculty, facilities, sport or anything else. It was all about the kids.

You have to congratulate Miles Latham and his team at Affixxius Academic, who asked the right questions and delivered a product that allowed Hornsby House to Stay On Top Of Their Game.

As you plan for your next admission cycle. Think about your market and who you are trying to reach. Think about your goals, and don’t be afraid to think big.

Let’s get YOU on top of YOUR game.